When Saurabh Todariya came to Dehi to pursue his MPhil degree a few years ago from Uttarakhand, he decided to join Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Philosophy. “It focuses on the interdisciplinary study of philosophical issues and social concerns in the context of culture and civilisation. Philosophy teaches us to ask fundamental questions and the complexity of these questions is the ethos of philosophy. The rigour of this subject is applied in fields as diverse as arts and neurosciences and hence I felt that I had a lot to gain from it,” says Todariya. He also knew that pursuing philosophy from JNU would equip him for research.
The centre aims to build a deeper and stronger base for higher studies in the subject. “In order to achieve this, ways of teaching and research have been designed to engage the students with the original philosophical texts, both classical and contemporary,” says RP Singh, professor and chairperson.
Tie-ups with many universities abroad have been worked out and there is a regular stream of faculty and students from both sides visiting each other every academic session. Students even get opportunities to go abroad and present papers in international seminars.
The course curriculum has been developed vis-à-vis newer philosophical approaches, which envisage philosophy with respect to other disciplines. “The students are encouraged to reflect steadily on key concepts and central problems of philosophy. They get ample opportunities to meet distinguished philosophers and scholars for discussions on philosophical issues by holding international and national seminars, workshops and special lectures on a regular basis,” adds Singh.
“Usually, we organise one international and one national seminar every year, and around 15-20 lectures by visiting scholars in our centre,” says Satya P Gautam, senior faculty member.
During the last seven academic sessions, the centre has produced a number of PhDs and MPhils as it strives to create a body of scholarly works in terms of books, seminar proceedings and articles by the faculty to yield newer and richer reflections on philosophical problems.
Programmes: The centre offers MPhil and PhD programmes in philosophy. Eight optional courses have also been designed for undergraduate students of JNU’s School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies. These include: epistemology: Indian and western philosophical systems; philosophy of language; ontology: Indian and Western philosophical systems; logic and scientific method; ethics and social philosophy.
Faculty: There are four faculty members who have vast experience in several research areas of the subject. The centre has invited visiting faculty and resource persons from India and other countries to strengthen its courses. The teachers also participate in global seminars and discussions. The Federation of International Societies of Philosophy and the organising committee of the World Philosophy Congress (WPC) have chosen Gautam to chair a section on Philosophy of Action for the next WPC to be held in Athens, Greece, in August 2013. All faculty members live on campus and are thus accessible to students round the clock.
IT quotient: The centre is well-connected to the computer labs in the university. The academic complex is Wi-Fi enabled and facilities are provided for video-conferencing, PowerPoint presentations for lectures, storing e-books and journals.
Infrastructure: The centre has a reading room, a conference room and access to campus libraries.
Clubs and societies: “We have formed a JNU Forum for Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, which is responsible for organising debates, seminars, conferences and other events related to philosophy. We also have a film club called Filmosophy that screens films based on philosophical issues. Besides these, we have a reading group on continental philosophy as part of which we invite students, researchers and scholars to discuss texts important for philosophy and social science,” says Todariya.
Student speak: Students say that here they have learnt how to ‘do’ philosophy and and not just read about it.
The Centre for Philosophy comes under the School of Social Sciences at JNU. The centre started MPhil and PhD programmes in the 2005-06 academic session. So far, 16 students have completed their PhDs and are all employed in universities across the country, including the University of Delhi
Students say they desire an expanded faculty with more teachers and also hope to get a library exclusively for the centre soon